How do you plan ADA seating accommodations for bars and restaurants? Learn the real facts about ADA compliance for bar and restaurant seating, how to calculate IBC occupant load and ADA seating.
HOW TO PLAN ADA SEATING FOR BARS AND RESTAURANTS
Do the photos below look familiar? If the one at the right looks less-familiar, this is how we accommodate wheelchairs for bars nowadays. Every bar should have this and I’m going to explain why. All portions of commercial buildings are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (referred to as “ADA”). This extends from the parking lot to the bathrooms and all areas between.
We’re all familiar with ADA parking spaces and restroom signage, but what about ADA seating for commercial bars?
ADA SEATING FOR BARS: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “GRANDFATHERING”
When it comes to planning for ADA seating, we need to be aware of the code requirement. The code is very specific about the percentage of seating and tables we must dedicate to those who are handicapped. Bar owners occasionally tell me that their architect says their bar is “grandfathered”. It’s true that grandfathering typically exempts buildings and/or businesses built/founded prior to 1990 from common code updates. However, ADA requirements supersede Grandfathering. I doubt that any architect would make such a grossly inaccurate comment.
THE BUILDING CODES AREN’T CLEAR ABOUT ADA SEATING FOR BARS
In the plan above, there three bars, a restaurant and nightclub. This is the reference document for my comments. In the world of design we have a “boatload” of code information. Many of us reference IBC, ANSI and local codes. When it comes to ADA, many of these documents have conflicting information. Many of the issues aren’t easily resolved. However, according to my good friend and industry expert, Hank Falstad, two documents serve as the backbone code for ADA:
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- ADA Amendments Act of 2008
These are federal statutes and therefore supersede IBC, ANSI and all local codes. According to Hank, these aren’t the documents referenced in federal ADA litigation. Hank is an architect with many years experience. He’s also the principle of Access Technologies Services. This is a compliance litigation management firm specializing in federal statutes with ADA. Hank also provides plan check services, consulting, auditing, reporting and expert witness testimony. Hank is really the “Go-To Guy” in this space.
BAR DESIGN TIP:
According to Hank Falstad, AIA, the Access Board’s 2004 Guidelines is the governing document for ADA. This agency is responsible for writing the “safe-harbor” for design and construction to be in compliance for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
IS ADA SEATING REQUIRED FOR BARS?
We’re required to have accommodations for the handicapped in all areas of this club. By federal statute, this includes both the restaurant and bar. There is no such thing as “grandfathering”.
ADA CODE IS SPECIFIC ABOUT SEATING ACCOMMODATIONS
With respect to ADA seating, the code requires the following:
A minimum of one accommodation, but not less than 5% of the surfaces are to be dedicated to ADA seating.
The restaurant has 14 tables. 5% of 14 is less than one, but we’re required to have a minimum of one table accommodation. In this instance, we’ve exceeded the code by providing two accommodations at the designated tables. Additionally, we provided an area for the wheelchair and a companion seat, along the bench seat.
ADA SEATING ACCOMMODATIONS
The photo above is a screenshot of the website called ‘Tablebases.com”. They have a very thoughtful presentation on ADA table seating. Note that the ADA patron has a 48-inch deep space. This includes 19 inches of the leg space beneath the table. By statute, a 36″ cross-aisle needs is required behind the 48″ ADA provision (refer to the sketch above).
HOW TO CALCULATE NIGHTCLUB SEATING REQUIREMENTS FOR ADA
Nightclub seating is calculated the same as outlined earlier. With a total of 22 tables, only one ADA accommodation is required. This equates to five percent of the surfaces. As shown in the plan below, we actually have two. We designated one 4-top table with two wheelchairs and two companion seats.
HOW TO PLAN ADA ACCOMMODATIONS FOR BARS
How do you plan ADA seating for bars?
ADA specifically requires bar seating to be calculated separately from table seating.
Even though we have proper accommodations at tables, bars are a different type of surface. The ADA code doesn’t allow discrimination against the handicapped by isolating them at a table. They need to have the same enjoyment as people seated at the bar.
The ADA Code requires bar surfaces to be calculated similar to the table surfaces. This requires a minimum of one accommodation and a maximum of five percent.
As the subject layout indicates, there are three bars. One bar has 12 seats, one has five and the other seven (24 total seats). According to the calculation, that equates to one ADA accommodation.
WHEN IN DOUBT, BE GENEROUS
When I laid-out the seating for the subject bar (club), I designated one ADA accommodation for the L-shaped bar. What happens if two patrons enter in wheelchairs? A thoughtful bar owner would have one extra provision, even though one is only required. In today’s litigious society someone’s going to say: ‘why didn’t you have two? Look at the size of this place – you have three bars.’
WHAT ARE THE FACTS ABOUT ADA DISCRIMINATION LAWSUITS?
A thoughtful and considerate bar owner would have two accommodations for ADA. Here’s what you really need to know about ADA discrimination lawsuits:
- ADA is a federal statute. As mentioned earlier, these cases are tried by federal judges.
- Plaintiff’s legal fees and professional fees are paid for by ADA.
- Most juries are sympathetic to ADA lawsuits.
- The average settlement is $100,000.
- Due to the above, bar owners and their architects have no chance of winning.
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